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A scientific look at the risks and rewards of yoga

Photo by Umberto Salvagnin via Flickr Creative Commons

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In their quest for fitness and spiritual bliss, yoga devotees twist themselves into various poses like Downward Facing Dog, Warrior II and Crow. But what do the millions of modern practitioners of this ancient practice really know about what yoga can and can’t do to heal the mind and body?

In "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards," award-winning New York Times science writer and longtime yogi William J. Broad delves into decades of research and history on the meditative practice, exploring the benefits and dismantling the myths. Broad interviewed a variety of experts including scientists, healers and yogis, and visited ashrams and medical centers throughout the United States, Canada and India, where yoga originated as part of an obscure, erotically focused cult. The path to yogic nirvana isn’t without pitfalls.

According to Broad, yoga has been touted as a way to lose weight, but it actually lowers metabolism, prompting daily practitioners to burn fewer calories. Yoga has also produced massive injuries, including brain damage and lung rupturing. On the upside, Broad found that new studies show yoga releases natural substances in the brain that act as powerful antidepressants, and that certain poses can prompt arousal through the release of sex hormones.

Broad winds his way into the AirTalk studio to talk with Larry about yoga’s truths and myths. How’s your yoga practice? Are those sun salutations working for or against you? Namaste everyone.

The Science of Yoga


William J. Broad, Author of "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and The Rewards" (Simon & Schuster); science writer at The New York Times, who with colleagues has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as an Emmy and a DuPont

Broad will talk about and sign copies of "The Science of Yoga, on March 30th at 7pm at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.